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tv   Democracy Now  PBS  May 6, 2015 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT

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05/06/15 05/06/15 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from pacifica, this is democracy now! >> i felt that we shot at houses just because, without even knowing if anyone was there. we shot at cars, doing things i was raised not to do, not to kill the innocent, not to shoot at an ambulance. west out there. it was all approved by the commanders. amy: breaking the silence. 10 months after israel killed 2,200 palestinians, the vast majority civilians, in gaza, a group of israeli soldiers are speaking out saying a "policy of indiscriminate fire" fueled the high civilian death toll. we will hear candid video testimonies and speak to a former israeli paratrooper who
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-- in tel aviv. then as palestine joins the international criminal court we , will look at whether israel could be brought up on charges with the top palestinian diplomat in the hague as well as former u.n. special rapporteur john dugard. >> [indiscernible] israel's crimes are infinitely worse than those committed by the apartheid regime of south africa. amy: then the computers are listening. newly published documents leaked by edward snowden show the nsa can automatically recognize the dutch translate the voice into easily searchable text. all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. houthi sources are claiming dozens of civilians have been killed or wounded in saudi arabia's latest strikes on northern yemen. the saudi-led coalition says it carried out the attacks after houthi rebels fired across the
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border, killing three people. secretary of state john kerry is in saudi arabia today to discuss a "humanitarian pause" to the more than month-long air campaign. the u.n. has warned yemen faces the collapse of its basic civilian infrastructure because an internationally backed arms embargo has prevented the delivery of fuel and food. amnesty international is accusing the syrian regime of crimes against humanity in its barrel bomb attacks on the city of aleppo. a new report says barrel bombs killed some 3,000 civilians last year and more than 11,000 since amnesty's philip luther unveiled 2012. the findings. >> barrel bombs are essentially oil drums with tnt inside and when civilians hear the hissing sounds so characteristic of the bomb attacks, they essentially know they have two minutes in which they can try and seek refuge. between genera 2014 and march
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2015, the reported 3000 civilian deaths while recording at the same time only the deaths of 35 fighters. that is a 99% civilian casualty raise. amy: the report comes as one of the main hospitals in aleppo has been forced to shut down because of relentless government attacks. the group doctors without borders says it's unclear if the al-sakur hospital will be able to resume operations due to heavy damage. the obama administration says it's too soon to determine if the self-proclaimed islamic state was behind sunday's attack on an anti-islam event in texas. the two gunmen were shot dead. no one else was killed. on tuesday, isil said the two were soldiers of the group, and warned that "future attacks are going to be harsher and worse." but it remains unclear if isil played any role beyond inspiring the gunmen with calls for violence. at the white house, press secretary josh earnest said an investigation continues. >> this is still under
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investigation by the fbi and other members of the intelligence community to determine any ties or affiliations of these two individuals have had with isil or other terrorist organizations around the world. it is too early to say at this point. amy: the state department , meanwhile has announced a $20 million bounty for four top isil leaders. attorney general loretta lynch was in baltimore tuesday, in her first official visit since taking up the position late last month. lynch met with the family of freddie gray, whose death in police custody sparked a wave of protest and led to the indictment of six officers on friday. later in the day, lynch addressed a gathering of police. >> i've watched the police in the city and i know their difficulties. i know we have struggles and we're here to help you work through those struggles in a way that will hopefully, be the best and most productive way for this department. but to all of you who are on the frontlines, i just want to say thank you.
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really, you're representing all of law-enforcement when you are out there. you are allowing peaceful protest in helping people rebuild, helping people cleanup. you really have become the face of law-enforcement. amy: in addition to the criminal indictment, the justice department is investigating whether gray's arrest violated his civil rights. the american civil liberties union is raising questions about the appearance of government surveillance planes and the skies over baltimore amidst protests over freddie's day -- freddie gray's death in police custody. on thursday, friday, saturday night, a cessna plane registered to ng research flew loops or protesters turned cars and a cbs earlier in the week. another plane with no tail number flew wider loops around the area of saturday night. an anonymous government official told "the washington post" they were aerial support. baltimore police requested it from the fbi. the plans reportedly used infrared technology to monitor people's movements. an arizona judge has ruled undocumented students granted a
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reprieve from deportation are eligible for in-state college tuition. tuesday's decision by superior court judge arthur anderson says immigrants with deferred status are considered lawfully present in the u.s., and are not barred from receiving public benefits. the ruling applies to undocumented youths known as dreamers who received status under president obama's daca program. on the campaign trail, democratic presidential hopeful hillary clinton has said she will go even further than president obama has in his executive actions on immigration, if republicans keep blocking comprehensive reform. clinton spoke tuesday to a crowd of high school students in nevada. >> i will fight for conference of immigration reform and a path to citizenship for you and for your families across our country. i will fight to stop partisan attacks in thexecutive actions that would put dreamers, including those with us today at risk of deportation.
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and if congress continues to refuse to act, as president, i would do everything possible under the law to go even further. amy: on the republican side, former arkansas governor and fox news host mike huckabee has announced his bid for the presidency. in his kickoff address, huckabee invoked an anti-abortion and anti-lgbt message. >> we lost our way morally. we witnessed the slaughter of over 55 million babies in the name of choice, and we are now threatening the foundation of religious liberty by criminalizing christianity and amending that we abandon biblical principles of natural marriage. many of our politicians -- [laughter] many of our politicians have surrendered to the false god of judicial supremacy, which would allow black robed and unelected judges the power to make law as well as enforce it. amy: the u.s. has announced it will resume a diplomatic
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presence in somalia after more than 20 years. secretary of state john kerry issued a video statement to coincide with his surprise visit to the country on tuesday. >> the world cannot afford to have places on the map that are essentially ungoverned. that is why semi's return to effective government is an historic opportunity. in recognition of the progress made in the promise to come, i am pleased to announce that the united states will begin the process of establishing the premises for a diplomatic mission in mogadishu. amy: kerry's visit was confined to the perimeter of the mogadishu airport, where he met with top officials for about three hours. the obama administration has approved a u.s.-based ferry service to cuba, the first in more than a half-century. four florida companies have been granted licenses to carry passengers and cargo to cuba after the treasury department lifted a ban on tuesday. the move follows last month's historic meeting between president obama and cuban
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president raul castro at a regional summit in panama. and the french satirical weekly charlie hebdo has been awarded the "freedom of expression courage" award at the pen american center gala in new york city. the newspaper was honored months after the massacre at the offices in paris, which the gunmen called revenge for cartoons depicting the prophet muhammad. charlie hebdo editor gerard biard accepted the award to a standing ovation. >> i perfectly understand [indiscernible] mohammed, jesus, moses, or even the pope. to learn that some ideas for some words, some images can be shocking. being shocked is a part of democratic debate. being shot is not. amy: the award to charlie hebdo sparked a major controversy among pen members. several prominent writers, including michael ondaatje, teju
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cole, and rachel kushner, pulled out of the gala in opposition to what they called charlie hebdo's targeting of muslims and other persecuted communities. those writers and some 200 pen members also signed a letter of protest. calling the massacre "sickening and tragic," the letter says -- "pen is not simply conveying support for freedom of expression but also valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-islamic, anti-arab sentiments already prevalent in the western world." in response, biard, the charlie hebdo editor, said -- "we have always been anti-racist, and we fight against all discrimination." and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. juan: welcome to all our listeners and viewers from around the country and around the world. we begin today's show with a new report based on testimonies of israeli soldiers that concludes the massive civilian death toll from last summer's israeli
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assault on gaza resulted from a policy of indiscriminate fire. the israeli veterans group breaking the silence released testimonies of more than 60 israeli officers and soldiers which it says illustrate a "broad ethical failure" that "comes from the top of the chain of command." more than 2200 palestinians were killed in the assault, the vast majority were civilians. on the israeli side 73 people , were killed, all but six of them soldiers. during the 50-day operation, than 20,000 palestinian homes were destroyed and hundreds of thousands are still displaced. amy: in a video made by breaking the silence, a first sergeant, his voice distorted, describes how a commander told him, "there are no innocent civilians," and to assume anyone within 200 or 400 meters of the israeli defense forces was an enemy. >> the commander announced folks, tomorrow we hit.
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i want you to be determined and confident. the entire nation is behind you. the usual speeches. and then he spoke about the rules of engagement. and i quote, the rules of engagement are --
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amy: that was an israeli defense force, idf soldier who served during last summer's israeli assault on gaza, known as operation protective edge. his testimony is part of a new report just released by the veterans group breaking the silence. for more we go to tel aviv israel, where we are joined by avner gvaryahu, director of public outreach at breaking the silence. he is a former idf solder who served from 2004-2007, as a sergeant in a special operations unit around nablus and jenin. welcome to democracy now! talk about the number of people who are speaking out and why you have done this now. >> hi, amy. we are a group, breaking the silence, is a group of former
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idf soldiers and some of us are still current idf soldiers. throughout the years, we have met more than 1000 soldiers. in this time around, the summer when the summer ends and we realized we saw the amount of damage the we realized that something went terribly wrong. and we actually started getting phone calls, e-mails from soldiers who were themselves in this operation. then we ourselves also started reaching out to people. so we are about, as you said, more than 60 soldiers. one third of them are officers, which is a very high number for us. and we're talking about people that all served during the summer in different positions in different units. we're not talking about soldiers
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from only one specific place but throughout the entire strip in different positions. and i think reading these testimonies, it definitely did this to me and to us in the organization, but i think it is very, very clear that something went terribly, terribly wrong. and the bare minimum we can do is listen to the same soldiers we sent to fight in our name. juan: what penalties -- and all of these clips, the soldiers are anonymous, their identities are not revealed. what penalties do they face for speaking out and how did you manage to get so many people to get together to testify in one video? >> well, it is actually -- it is not an easy task. it's not trivial to speak out in israel today.
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it is definitely something that is difficult. and i have to say that the soldiers who are anonymous and all the testimonies that are given, are given to us, you know, one-on-one. so we know each and every one of the test of fires, but for various reasons, we have decided to make sure they will all be anonymous. but they're not scared of the penalties. they're not scared of legal route cushions, -- legal repercussions, they are scared of the reaction of their society and the fact that they will be seen as the scapegoat. one of the points we have always tried to make is that the soldiers coming and speaking out are not the problem. the soldiers coming and speaking out, in my eyes, or maybe a way for a solution.
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managing to pinpoint or put a spotlight on the orders they got from up high, and that is where we are going to try to push the debate. larger, public debate about the way we fight our wars, the way we fight in gaza, and maybe try to make sure that next time around it won't be that close or maybe it won't happen at all. amy: in this clip a first sergeant describes his commander's order to randomly fire on a neighborhood in the gaza strip during operation protective edge. >> so he gave an order. guys parked tanks in a row. assume the position facing the neighborhood and prepare for contact. contact means we all shoot at once. after a countdown, 3, 2, one, shoot. i remember all the tanks stood in a row.
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amy: again, that soldier, his face is blurred and his voice is disguised. our guest is avner gvaryahu, a
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first sergeant in the idf, the person we just heard. so you interviewed or breaking the silence interviewed some 70 officers soldiers? you have this all on videotape? >> a little bit less than 70 soldiers, many of them officers, were interviewed. not all were on video. a small number of them was willing to be filmed on video because of the things i mentioned earlier. i mean, we're talking about a real fear, which i can definitely relate to. but still they found in them the urge and the need to come and speak out. this specific clip or testimony was really, as you mentioned from a soldier who served was a gunner in the armored courts.
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i think the interesting thing about this testimony is it is not that unique. we hear very similar stories incidences from various soldiers in different places, and the stories that keep coming up by the fact that, basically soldiers were told to, first of all, almost constantly shoot -- which is something that is not the procedure just in comparison, during the second intifada around 2000 in the gaza strip, in order for a tanker or for a gunner to shoot a tank, -- tank shell, he actually needed permission from his the tie in officer. this time around, in this round, soldiers that were very, very young soldiers sometimes the tank commander gave these orders. basically, soldiers were told almost constantly shoot.
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this is something, as we just heard, many times in areas they were not shot at from. many times, they had no idea what they were actually shooting at. juan: one soldier said his unit tried to shoot all of its machine gun ammunition just before getting resupplied. even after targets had not been identified. let's listen to this one.
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juan: so, avner gvaryahu, what did the soldiers say but the rules of engagement they were told either officers to utilize just told by their officers to utilize in this conflict? >> i think that is one of the most interesting points. rules of engagement. as you mentioned, i myself was a paratrooper. i was also a surgeon, commander of soldiers and i knew what my rules of engagement were, but they keep them very brief. basically, one of the things i was taught was, if you have a doubt, then there is no doubt. what does that mean when i was a
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soldier, when no serving in the west bank? basically, think not twice but three or four times before you shoot. if there is a little bit of a doubt, then better you do not make a mistake and basically don't shoot if there is a doubt. what we see in the gaza strip is basically, the army's attempt to eliminate the idea of doubt. soldiers were told -- and this is really throughout the strip throughout the board -- soldiers were told that the areas they are entering our areas there are no civilians. now, the idf does warn civilians in the areas soldiers were supposed to enter. pamphlets were dropped from the air, sometimes phone calls. but the moment those warnings were given, in the mindset of the military, anyone staying in that area turns into someone
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that is an enemy. now, the moment after we throw those pamphlets and make a few phone calls, the idf starts bombing artillery shells all over these areas. so soldiers are basically entering an area that they were told basically, from our perspective, they were lied to that there are no civilians there. why my saying it in such certainty to rely too? because from our testimonies we hear over and over again there were still palestinians in these neighborhoods. i don't know why they were there. some stayed because maybe hamas members for some. but in other cases, we know of people were there because they just couldn't leave, elderly people people that were handicapped, people that for reasons we don't know -- maybe they didn't want to leave their property. one of the testimonies talks about a soldier entering the
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house and there are between 30 and 40 people in it. so when we are talking about the mindset of the soldier and the testimony we just heard soldiers were under the false assumption -- the false assumption that there entering an area that no civilians are in. and one of the powerful testimonies -- yeah? amy: i want to play another clip from an idf soldier describing how they would shoot freely at houses during the assault on gaza last summer in order to "make their presence felt."
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amy: that is an idf soldier describing what happened last summer, the israelis assault on gaza, his role in it, what is known as operation protective edge. avner gvaryahu, respond to this also i cut you off and you were talking about another testimony. >> so i just wanted -- we have
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these specific instances but one of the things we hear from many many soldiers is the mindset that they were in. one of the guys describes it very well. he says, after three weeks in the gaza strip that you shoot at everything that moves and things that don't move, in a crazy amount of gunpowder, the good and bad sort of mix up together and rally -- morality sort of disappears. and he says, it sort of becomes like a videogame and it is like really, really cool and real. the truth of the matter is, this is something i can resonate too. i did not serve in the gaza strip. i served in the west bank. but these are things we hear from soldiers throughout the decade we have been gathering testimonies. i think would happened in the gaza strip this time around, because of the unbelievable amount of gunfire, then we
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really see soldiers using this ability of really indiscriminately. and i have to say, i don't think it was -- i think there's a difference between shooting indiscriminately and shooting intentionally. maybe the outcome is the same but there's a difference. there wasn't an intentional harm to kill innocent palestinians, but when we talk about the orders they got, when we're talking about the way we used force in gaza, that is where the problem starts. because soldiers were really told there are no innocent civilians. and this is why we hear and see these testimonies. juan: in this other testimony, and israeli soldier described how he was instructed to treat anyone seen looking towards his positions as a "scout" for hamas or other militant groups to be fired on.
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juan: and this is an israeli soldier describing his feelings at the end of the assault on gaza.
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juan: and in this final clip, an idf soldier describes how a battalion commander tried to raise morale by telling the soldiers in his company that shuja'iyya had been completely destroyed.
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juan: avner gvaryahu, what are you hoping to accomplish with these video testimonies now? >> well, first and foremost, we want to hope for to create debate -- debate. we want people to know how we're fighting in gaza. i think it is free clear, you
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know, this is the third round -- everyone knows there's going to be another one. so let's make sure, that's what we can hope for, is that before the next cycle starts, let's at least know what we're demanding from our soldiers to do. now, we are of course, we could hope for much more. one of the points we're calling for is an israeli investigation but external to the military. we believe it is crucial and possible for our society to look itself in the mirror and ask itself what they're actually asking their soldier or military to do. and in that matter, like i said earlier, it is not about finding a scapegoat or specific commander, it is about, you know, the whole picture.
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and i think it is definitely about time that we have a real chance to take responsibility and say that we as a society cannot accept the fact that this is the way we're going to continue to live. and i as an israeli, i, by the way, see myself as an israeli patriot. i am not willing to accept the fact that because our enemies act in immoral ways, it is ok for us to not ask ourselves questions. amy: avner gvaryahu, we're going to look at palestine joining the icc. we'll breaking the silence bring the soldiers testimonies to the international criminal court? >> the answer is no. we have never called for were handed information -- or handed
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information to external courts or israeli courts. we are trying to create awareness. i think you specifically speaking, i think there are more relevant places to bring the report. that is, of course, to the israeli eye. i think what we are trying to do is create this report but the information is out there. it is -- we did not meet with the committee for the goldstone report, but the committee to decide use our information. information is out there, but what we call is what i said earlier, and this is really something that we find very important, and israeli investigation that is external to the military. we believe this is possible and crucial to our society. amy: avner gvaryahu, thank you
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for being with us, former idf soldier who served from 2004-2007, as a sergeant in a special operations unit around nablus and jenin. when we come back, we go to the hague international criminal court has a new member -- palestine. stay with us. ♪ [music break]
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amy: "palestinian heritage," naseer shamma this is democracy now!, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. juan: the breaking the silence report is being published just a week after a united nations probe confirmed israeli forces conducted direct attacks on united nations facilities in gaza, killing at least 44 palestinians sheltering at the sites during last summer's offensive. the attacks took place despite repeated notifications with the gps coordinates of u.n. sites to israeli forces. amy: palestinians have vowed to bring the findings to the international criminal court. last week, i spoke to two guests about the implications of
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palestine's accession to the international criminal court. ambassador nabil abuznaid is the head of the palestinian mission to the netherlands. and john dugard is the former u.n. special rapporteur on human rights in the palestinian territories. he's now emeritus professor of international law at the university of leiden in the netherlands. he was born in south africa. i started by asking ambassador abuznaid about the significance of palestine becoming the newest member of the international criminal court. >> i think the international community should encourage palestine and congratulate palestine for joining the international court because we accepted to live under international law. we are a piece of biting nation. we really tried politically to end the occupation. we tried by all means to end it but unfortunate, we were forced to seek justice through the international court, which,
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hopefully, could stop the israeli aggression against our people, against our lands so we can live a free indignity in our homeland. amy: what kind of pressure did you come under? israel and the united states were opposed of you making this bid to be a member. >> well, they can oppose as much as they want. they can stop the money from going to the icc. they can shut buildings, but they cannot stop justice. i think justice in the end would prevail. amy: john dugard, what is the significance of palestine becoming a member of the international criminal court? >> in the first place, it does give credibility to palestine's statehood. palestine is now a member of the international criminal court. and even those states in the court system that do not recognize palestine have to
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accept that it is a state, at least for the purposes of international criminal court. the other important factor is that it does now provide an avenue for the pursuit of international criminal justice. amy: what, and basinger, do you want the international criminal court to investigate? what is before the court? >> well, i think palestinians, for more than 60 years, they did not have one day of justice. and what is the daily occupation is a clear violation of international law in removing people from their land, and stopping people from their freedom of movement, attacks on gaza and killing thousands of people. i'm sure israel violated every international law and the book and its long occupation in palestine. amy: what is a particular case before the court right now, john
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dugard? >> i think there are three major crimes that the court will be required to investigate. first of all, there is the question of settlements. today, there are over 700,000 illegal israeli settlers in palestinian territory. and that is an international crime in terms of their own statutes in general international law. so that is the first crime. the second crime, probably most important, concerns the recent gaza conflict, operation protective edge, where israel was responsible for killing 2200 people and failing to distinguish between civilians and -- that is clearly at least a war crime, probably a crime against two minute he as well. and there's also the failure of
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israel to treat political prisoners as prisoners of war, which i know is an issue that is important the palestinian authority. amy: just to clarify, john dugard, there's no particular case that has been brought up right now with the newest number ship of palestine. -- membership of palestine. talks they decided to conduct a pulmonary investigation -- preliminary investigation into the issue. in order to decide whether or not to conduct a full-scale investigation into the allegations of international crimes, she will have to be satisfied, first of all, that an international crime was committed. secondly, that there is no investigation -- proper investigation that has been conducted in the respondents case which in this case would
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be israel. third, that the crime is sufficiently serious, in what is called the gravity test. amy: ambassador abuznaid, are you concerned that palestinians, palestinian organizations will be indicted as well? >> well, when we accepted the role of statutes, we're not immune. we will cooperate with the court . if we need to be investigated, we are willing to do that. we are accepted to live under international law. and if we are piloting international law, we would be responsible for our acts equally. and hope the israelis would see the same as weo. amy: speaking to a congressional panel in 2014, you and ambassador samantha power said the u.s. will continue to block palestinian efforts in forms like the united nations. >> there are no shortcuts to statehood. we made that clear. efforts that attempt to circumvent the peace process are
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only going to become a productive to the peace process itself into the ultimate objective of securing statehood the objective the palestinian authority, of course, has. so we have contested every effort even prior to the restart of negotiations spearheaded by secretary kerry come every time the palestinians have sought to make a move on a u.n. agency, treaty, etc., we have opposed it will stop amy: john dugard your response to the u.s. invested or to the u.n. samantha power? >> i think the strategy of israel and also the united states is simply to allow talks to go on forever and ever by israel annexes morland and takes over palestinian territory. the purpose of the international criminal court, as i see it, is
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to circumvent the strategy on the part of israel and the united states and make israel and the united states see and face the issues very clearly. israel has committed very serious crimes. and i might add, [indiscernible] i've no hesitation in saying israel's crimes are infinitely worse than those committed by the apartheid regime of south africa. amy: explain what you're saying. >> for seven years, i visited the palestinian territory twice a year. i also conducted a fact-finding mission after the operation in gaza 2008-2009. so i am familiar with the situation and familiar with the apartheid situation. i was the human rights lawyer in apartheid south africa.
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and i like virtually every south african who visits the occupied territory has a terrible sense of déjà vu. seen it all before except it is infinitely worse. what is happening in the west bank is that the creation of a settlement enterprise has resulted in a situation that closely resembles that of apartheid in which the settlers are the equivalent of white south africans. they enjoy superior rights over palestinians, and they do a press palestinians. one does have a system of apartheid in the occupied palestinian territory. i might mention that apartheid is also a crime within the competence of international committal court. amy: you say, john dugard, that the situation in the palestinian territories is worse than apartheid. what would an apartheid case
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brought to the international criminal court look like? again, you are the special rapid tour, the un's special rapid tour when human rights in the palestinian territories as well as being a south african and international rights lawyer. >> i think it is important to stress the whole international environment has changed since the end of apartheid because the apartheid regime, forcefully for itself, did not have to face a legal action either before an international criminal court or before national courts. whereas israel today does phase action before an international court. of course, the crimes are substantially the same. discrimination repression targeted assassinations, house demolitions. i think in one respect, israel's crimes are much worse and that is in respect of its military
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action against gaza where it has not hesitated to kill civilians indiscriminately. amy: the u.n. has confirmed israeli forces conducted direct attacks on united nations facilities in gaza, killing at least 44 palestinians, sheltering at the sides during last summer's assault. the attacks taking place despite repeated notifications with the gps coordinates of u.n. sites given to is really forces. ambassador abuznaid, your response to what the u.s. found -- what was found and what it means? >> i think this is not just the palestinians have a say in it, this is mr. ban ki-moon and other saying they killed deliberately innocent palestinian civilians who are taking shelter in some of the u.n. buildings and this is a
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violation of international law. but the one comment i would like to say as a palestinian, regardless to the suffering of the palestinian people, to our people through all this century and now what happened in syria, even in the netherlands we're 15,000 arrive here on boats -- hundreds drowned in the waters. we are not seeking revenge, only we want justice for our people who did not see one single day of justice. hopefully, that justice will prevail soon. amy: israel is not a member of the international criminal court. the united states is not. >> that is correct. amy: so the significance of this? why they are not members? >> well, the united states has given a number of reasons for
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failing to become a full member of the international criminal court. we must remember that neither china nor russian federation are members of the international criminal court. there are general reasons given by the united states. in the case of israel, israel does not become a party because it has something to hide. it clearly does not wish to see its own military leaders and its political leaders targeted. amy: i want to thank you both for being with us, ambassador abuznaid is the head of the palestinian mission to the netherlands. john dugard is former u.n. special repertory on human rights in the palestinian territories, and a professor emeritus at the university of leiden here in the netherlands. we're broadcasting from the hague in the netherlands. thanks for joining us. this is democracy now!, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. when we come back, the nsa can turn your phone conversations into text and search it? stay with us.
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♪ [music break] amy: "everything is everything," by lauryn hill.
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she just canceled a concert in israel sang she wanted to do one in both israel and the occupied territories and the one in the territories just wasn't being able to happen. this is democracy now!, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. juan: "the computers are listening." that is the headline to a new article by the intercept details how the national security agency, or nsa, is converting people's private phone conversations into searchable text. according to documents released by nsa whistleblower edward snowden, the agency can now automatically recognize the spoken words by generating rough transcripts and phonetic representations that are easily stored and combed for information. the top-secret documents show nsa analysts congratulated themselves on developing what they called "google for voice" nearly a decade ago. it remains unclear how widely the spy agency uses its speech-to-text capabilities to transcribe and index u.s. citizens' verbal conversations. the documents suggest the nsa has frequently used the technology to intercept phone
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calls particularly in iraq and , afghanistan, as well as mexico and to monitor international news. amy: for more we go to washington, d.c., where we're joined by dan froomkin, a staff reporter at the intercept. his new piece is called, "the computers are listening: how the nsa converts spoken words into searchable text." he also just wrote an article headlined, "why the usa freedom act is both desperately important and laughably pathetic." welcome to democracy now! talk about how voice is turned into text and the significance of this for the nsa and for the public. this is democracy now!, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman >> the funny thing is, it isn't surprising when you talk about it. we talk to our apps, dictate google searches. is it any surprise the nsa can do this and has been able to do this for a while? no. that is never been disclosed before in the nsa refuses to talk about it. because the don't acknowledge they do it, we can't have a
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public policy discussion about what the limits to it should be, with the significance of it is. and that is enormous. if they had somebody around to listen to it, you might be spied on if you're making international phone calls or what have you, but now they can listen to everything all at once thanks to these computers. they can search through for whatever they might be looking for. juan: does this extend also to for instance, internet phone calls or skype as well? >> from what i can tell, the nsa doesn't establish between any of these. they just call it voice intercept. they seem to be equally adept at pulling voice off of the standard old phone lines, phone circuits that travel across fiber-optic lines digital voice, so voice over internet, skype, whatever. they pull it off, boys intercept, then, theoretically, they could use it on any even
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amy: the usa freedom act will congress address that? >> it doesn't address it at all. nothing addresses this because nobody really knew about it before. the usa freedom act only touches on the one program, which we know doesn't involve actual voice content and therefore doesn't involve voice recognition. it would just constrain the bulk collection of domestic metadata. i said "just." it is a significant move, but impaired the vast metastasizing surveillance state that has come to exist here, it is really very little. juan: and for those listening or viewing the show who believe their voice conversations should be kept private, what remedies are available to folks who don't want to have their stuff grabbed this way? >> at the end of the day, the answer is encryption.
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solid, unbreakable encryption. there are -- apple is doing that with its own iphones and face time and he was services like silent circle and what have you. encryption would be the way to do it. amy: finally media monitoring by the u.s. government here and abroad. >> that actually struck me as one of the most anodyne uses of it. perfectly fine, as far as i'm concerned. i'm happy the nsa wants to know what is going on around the world. collecting open source data. i would like them to collect as much open source data as they can to find out what is going on. the issue is when they're looking at stuff that we think is private. if there translating and arabic news channel into english and sending it out to their people what is wrong with that? more power to them. but if they're listening in on bedroom talk between the prime
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minister and his confidant am a that is not so good. [laughter] amy: dan froomkin, thank you for being with us. we will link to your piece called "the computers are listening." juan, you have an interesting piece today about rent in new york. you interviewed mayor deblasio? >> yes, yesterday, the mayor gave me an exclusive look at his proposal to try to save affordable housing in new york city. about a million people -- a million a permits are rent-stabilized, but they are facing the possibility of the end of rent relations on june 15 in the state legislature must, but the new plan. the mayor has proposed the most sweeping new expansions
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protections to the rent laws of new york state in decades, but the legislature must approve this by june 15. luckily, in the last few weeks the leader of the senate and the leader of the state assembly have both been indicted by federal authorities for extortion getting landlords to pay the money in exchange for their passing pro-landlord legislation. hopefully, the sands are shifting in albany with these new arrests and hopefully, now the mayor will be up to get his plan through. amy: we will link your piece at democracy now! is looking for feedback from people who appreciate the closed captioning. e-mail your comments to or mail them to democracy now! p.o. box 693 new york, new york 10013. [captioning made possible by democracy now!]
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>> it's risotto day. a lot of stirring going on. but a delicious result. even grandma is coming over for dinner. >> ♪
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